Crete may be a part of Greece, as much as Greece is a part of Crete. So much of what makes Greece what it is comes from this sun flecked island on the southern end of the Aegean. The Minoan culture, the tales of the Minotaur and the fierce character of the Cretans along the millennia have ensured its legacy. Even Zorba has contributed to the island’s fame. But it is the singular culinary delights that may just elevate Crete to the pantheon once it’s all said and done.
Anyone lucky enough to have been to Crete or even tried some of its produce can testify to the kaleidoscopic parade of aromas and flavor. They are just superb! From the honey, the herbs and spices to the wines, everything is tasty, fresh and healthy. They don’t call the Mediterranean diet (who are we kidding? It’s the Cretan diet, guys) the healthiest in the world for nothing. Eat well, eat balanced. Like Aristotle said, ‘everything in measure’.
So, if eating this luscious food is great, imagine how awesome it’d be to learn how to make it in your own time? Not too bad, I suspect.
Crete has an abundancy of produce of the highest standard, and the good folks over there are willing to share their secrets with you. And literally show you around their private farms, where the best produce, free of any kind of chemicals is harvested and brought to your table.
Grandma’s recipes are always the best. In some farms you can participate in courses that teach you how to make jams, liquers, compotes and bread, not to mention cheese, wine making and raki making.
In Crete, one of the basic staples is the olive and the olive oil. Naturally. And in Crete the olives are good. Real good. Everyone has an olive grove in Greece, but in Crete EVERYONE has them. It is what Crete is all about. The harvest of the olives is done traditionally, as it was always done. A wide net is cast underneath the olive tree, while the people carefully guide them down on the net. It is then taken to one of the many mills (in Crete, it isn’t unusual for people to actually have their own mills) where it is processed, crushed and extracted. In many cases you can take back some oil to keep as yours.
Meat & Cheese
And then there’s the meats and cheeses. Crete is a predominantly agrarian society and so sheep herding is a major form of occupation for many locals. Sheep herders are a common site. Ever wonder where all that awesome feta, and mizithra cheese comes from? Right there. The rich soil and salinity of the sea give the meat a particular taste that extends to the milk they produce.
Some shepherds have pooled together to form agrotourism associations that showcase the techniques used for cheese making.
Wine & Raki
Similarly, the wine and raki produced in Crete is divine; enough to set this chap on a bacchanal tail spin the last time he visited.
The wine making period begins in January and ends in August through to October, and is a fun affair, with the whole village participating in the many stages of preparation, from the pruning to the milling, tipping of shoots, sulfuration and thinning of the grapes. The winepress is a fun way of engaging with the process.
Raki, the strong by product of the grapes has a comparable distillation process that’s been around for generations. Heated in big cauldrons that almost every village seems to have, the process takes place during the autumn months, right after the wine is sorted.
The combination of great beaches, pristine nature, outdoor activities, culture and food is so irresistible, Oscar Wilde couldn’t have said it better.